This month in our Catching Up series, we’re learning more about David C. Shelledy, PhD, RRT, RPFT, FAARC, FASAHP, AARC president 2003. Shelledy shares details about his career path, road to presidency, as well as tips and advice for members interested in pursuing leadership roles in the AARC.
Describe Your Career Path
Shelledy: I started in respiratory care at Holy Cross Hospital in Fort Lauderdale, FL, back in the early 1970s. I became fascinated with respiratory physiology, critical care, and mechanical ventilation. I did some research, and respiratory care looked like a great option to complete my B.S. degree. At the time, there were only three B.S. degree respiratory care programs in the country and one of these was in Orlando, under the leadership of Bob Rogers, RRT, and Easton Smith, RRT. Easton was a past president of AARC and Bob was his star pupil. I transferred to Florida Tech in Orlando — now the University of Central Florida — and completed my B.S. in respiratory therapy/cardiopulmonary sciences.
After graduating, and having had several years of clinical experience, I landed a job as a supervisor at the James A. Haley VA Medical Center in Tampa. The University of South Florida had recently started its medical school, and the VA Medical Center was the home of the school’s division of pulmonary and critical care medicine. This experience exposed me to the world of academic medicine and research. While working in Tampa, I got the opportunity to teach a number of in-service classes and short courses to respiratory care personnel, nurses, and physicians, and I really enjoyed teaching. A position came open at St. Petersburg College which gave me the opportunity to teach full-time. I then went on to become the chair of the respiratory care program at St. Pete College. While at St. Pete, I completed my master’s degree and then went on to serve as director of clinical education and interim chair in the department of cardiopulmonary sciences at Georgia State University, where I completed my PhD. Next up was service as founding chair of the department of respiratory care at the University of Texas Health Science Center at San Antonio (UT Health), a position I held for over 10 years.
These experiences led me to appointment as dean, College of Health Sciences at Rush University Medical Center in Chicago, and eventually back to San Antonio, where I am currently serving as dean of the School of Health Professions at UT Health Science Center (UT Health). As dean and a faculty member in the Division of Respiratory Care, I have been able in help start a new master’s degree program in respiratory care and our first class graduated last year.
Why did you choose to pursue the President Office?
Shelledy: Professional service provides an opportunity to make things better for our patients and our profession. Early in my career, I was encouraged by Easton Smith to get involved with the Florida Society for Respiratory Care (FSRC). I wanted to advance the profession, and initially served as a FSRC chapter director, then legislative committee chair, later becoming FSRC president and delegate. One of our greatest team achievements over several years was passage of the Respiratory Care Act in Florida, which at the time was the third such bill in the country.
My professional service continued with the Georgia Society for Respiratory Care as a board member and delegate and eventually culminated with service on the AARC Board of Directors for a four-year term. This was followed by service as AARC Vice President for Internal Affairs and then election as AARC president.
The leadership of AARC has always been highly professional and progressive. The Board works as a team to advance the profession and many important initiatives represent multi-year efforts across several presidencies. Serving as AARC president represented a great opportunity to continue to advance the profession across several fronts: recognition, education, credentialing and practice. As president, I had the opportunity to promote the development and approval of the AARC White Paper on Baccalaureate and Graduate Respiratory Care Education, release of a white paper on the importance of the RRT credential, advancement of protocol-driven care efforts, an increase in recognition for RTs and the move to a 2-year AARC presidency to improve consistency of leadership, which took several years to implement. Our board also helped lay some of the preliminary ground work which culminated in the AARC 2015 and beyond conferences on professional roles, responsibilities, competencies, and education.
Professional service remains an important value for me, and I have served as a commissioner for the Commission on Accreditation for Respiratory Care (CoARC) and I am currently serving as the 2018-19 president of the Coalition for Baccalaureate and Graduate Respiratory Therapy Education (CoBGRTE) which was recognized as an AARC steering committee in 2003 and continues to be closely aligned with, and supportive of the AARC.
What was the most memorable experience during your Presidency?
Shelledy: Serving as AARC president was a great honor and privilege, and provided many memorable experiences. First taking office as AARC president in the fall of 2002 at the AARC international convention in Tampa, Florida was like being shot out of a cannon. The level and intensity of activities required by the incoming president was amazing and exhilarating, even after many years of service on the board. I was blessed with a great board made up of extraordinarily talented people including Mike Runge, BS, RRT, FAARC, Peg Traband, MEd, RRT, FAARC, John Hiser, MEd, RRT, CPFT, FAARC, Tim Myers, MBA, RRT, RRT-NPS, FAARC, Toni Rodriguez, EdD, RRT, FAARC, and Carl Wiezalis, MS, RRT, FAARC, my parliamentarian. And while our board had many important achievements, my most memorable experiences included the opportunity to travel around the country and the world, meeting the people who provide clinical respiratory care and the leaders in our profession who seek to advance that care.
What advice would you give someone interested in pursuing a leadership role in AARC?
Shelledy: AARC offers excellent opportunities for leadership development in our profession, and I would highly encourage people to participate. Volunteer for your state professional society and the AARC. Serve on committees, and when you get more experience, volunteer to chair committees and/or run for office. There are many role models who have served, or are currently serving in leadership roles within AARC. These folks are more than happy to serve as mentors for those who want to get and stay involved, as well as advance their career.
I would also encourage individuals to advance their education. If you have not done so, complete your B.S. degree in respiratory care and go on and complete one of the emerging M.S. degree respiratory care leadership programs that are becoming more and more available across the country.
We also need many more respiratory therapists prepared to teach, perform research and fill other professional and academic leadership roles. There are now a number of PhD programs in health sciences which will provide the training and education needed for these leadership positions.
How has your membership in the AARC benefited your career?
Shelledy: AARC provides an outstanding path for career development, and allowed me to work with, and learn from with some of the most influential leaders in our profession. In addition, AARC provides outstanding educational opportunities for continuing practice that helps me keep current in terms of what’s going on clinically, as well as what’s happening across the health care landscape.